Managing Citizenship, Security, and Rights: Regulating Marriage Migration in Europe and North America
This research investigates the ways in which marriage migration has become the object of intense state scrutiny, and the site of political interventions in the past twenty years, as family-related migration became the main legal mode of entry in the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Canada, and the United States. Such interventions have taken different forms, and have become increasingly debated. Indeed, the policy focus on marriage migration seems to pit what many deem to be a fundamental principle in Western democracies, namely the right to family life (at least for established citizens), against calls and pressures for tightened migration policies, invoked in the name of security.
This begs three crucial questions: why are these countries now preoccupied with marriage migration, and how do such preoccupations translate into actual policies? How can we make sense of the apparent antinomy between the rationality of bureaucratic regulations of marriage migration, and emotions such as love, that are presumed to represent a form of “moral gatekeeping” (Wray, 2006) integral to the validity of the relationships being assessed by state officials? Finally, what are the consequences of policing marriage migration and family reunification on the lives of migrants, but also non-migrants wishing to reunite with their loved ones?
To answer these questions, this project is informed by disciplines as varied as law, critical security studies, feminist and queer studies, and anthropology. Through interdisciplinary lenses, it pays attention to the unfolding dynamic between a constellation formed by the three key concepts/sites of “security”, “citizenship” and “rights”. Our research interrogates the changing shape of their meaning and their recognition that emerges through their interrelationship in marriage migration management practices: how do understandings of citizenship affect how security gets conceptualized and enforced? How do expectations of romantic love can become tied to ideas of citizenship? How do specific rights to family also affect what it means to be a citizen, and can exclude who can be counted as one?